Back to our November winery tour in Rioja, Spain. I found tackling this post very challenging because I knew whatever I wrote and showed I would never be able to give proper credit to the Remelluri bodega, officially Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri, in Labastida, again in the Álava province of the Basque country. As far as I can tell, it may very well be a piece of paradise on Earth.
Remelluri is one of the oldest wine-growing estates in Spain. The title derives from a Count Erramel of Alava thanks to whom the location was called Erramelluri. It is situated at the foot of the Toloño mountain and dates back to the 14th century when monks from the Toloño monastery started a farm there, hence the Nuestra Señora or Virgin Mary also in the present title. The monks left the place in the 15th century but hermits continued to maintain the sanctuary, whereas a local community organization started to take care of the farm to provide food and drink for the pilgrims that came to visit the shrine.
The average size of a vineyard plot in Rioja is only 0.5ha (1.2ac). (We have a vacant plot of that size behind the row of spruce trees sheltering the garden. Too bad a vineyard will not survive here in our time but with the current speed of global warming this may happen sooner than we care to believe...) Also at Remelluri, the scenery is patched with some 200 plots that are cultivated using traditional ecological methods. Some of the vineyards are at 800m, which is the highest elevation where vines are grown in Rioja. The area provides a unique microclimate: the mountains protect it from Atlantic winds and temperature variation between night and day is greater than elsewhere, which favours a mild and late maturing of the grape.
If you saw my post on our visit to the winery of Marqués de Riscal (here) you must have guessed by now that this visit was completely different. On a visit to Remelluri, the technicalities of winemaking are not the main point but you are allowed, or rather invited, to take a walk around the estate. There are three suggested tours to choose from. If you like you can take them all as long as you book in advance. The walks are free but they want to keep the capacity limited to guarantee all visitors an enjoyable and one-of-a-kind experience.
The necropolis makes you wonder why these Christians living under Moors buried their dead in this manner. Was is because of a contagious disease the survivors tried to avoid infecting the soil with? Were they not allowed to utilize land for their cemetery? Or did they simply bury everyone this way? Whatever the reason, it was imposing to step by the tombs that had already been there for centuries when the monks started their farm there – that have been there for every traveller to see for a thousand years now.